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Clashes erupt at labour reform protests in France

Matthieu Alexandre, AFP | A protester holds a white rose during labour reform protests in Paris on May 26, 2016

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets across France on Thursday to protest against the government’s controversial labour reform bill, with clashes erupting in Paris and other cities.

  • Demonstrators protesting against a French labour reform law took to the streets of Paris and other French cities and towns as the country’s powerful trade unions put up a show of force against the government’s refusal to scrap reforms aimed at boosting employment.
  • French authorities estimated that at least 153,000 people took part in Thursday's protests across France, while the CGT labour union put the number much higher at 300,000. A total of 77 people were arrested during the demonstrations.
  • Protests in Paris descended into violence, with protesters throwing projectiles and police firing bouts of teargas. The unrest left several store fronts, a bus shelter and a Velib bike-share station damaged. Clashes also erupted in Bordeaux, in the south of France, while protesters in the western city of Nantes attacked a police station.
  • French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said that while “improvements and modifications” could be made to the labour reforms, the heart of the bill – a measure weakening the power of unions over workplace rules – will remain unchanged.
  • The demonstrations coincided with fuel blockades and a transport strike. France’s national oil industry federation (UFIP) said only two of the country's eight oil refineries were working normally on Thursday with about 20 percent of gas stations suffering shortages, compared to 30 percent earlier in the week. Police were deployed to force open fuel depots blocked by strikers.
  • CGT energy and mining federation spokeswoman Marie-Claire Cailletaud said the strike action at nuclear plants would reduce power output, but that reactors would not stop running. Sixteen of France's 19 nuclear stations voted to join the strike.

To see how the day’s events unfolded, read our live blog below.

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